The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Carp and her Young


"Take care, my little ones, take care,
Beware the river's bank," she said,
"The treach'rous hook is lurking there;
The hawk is hov'ring in the air;
Keep ever to the river's bed."
Thus 'midst the waters of the Seine,
The carp once plead, yet plead in vain,

          With her young fry.
'Twas April; and through all the sky,
The warm and moisty zephyrs flew,
To wake the mountains from their dreams;
And fill again the languid streams,
Which overflow'd the country through.
          Oh then to see
          The revelry
          Of the young fry,
          As brisk and spry,
They darted through the swollen flood!
          "Where's now your fear,
          My mother dear?
     There's nothing here but good.
The flood is to a deluge grown,
The whole world now is overflown,
And its domination is our own.
What is the need, midst such a sea,
In fear of hooks or hawks to be?"
Thus said the young fry in their glee.
"No, no," the mother straight replies,
"This flood is but a moment's rise;
Your only safety, as I've said,
Is not to leave the river's bed."
          "Oh pish!"
Exclaimed the mad young fish.
          "You weak old carp!
You always on that one string harp!
We are resolv'd to leave the Seine,
And enter on our new domain."

So saying, off the young ones go,
Exulting in the overflow.
We need not on their journey dwell,
For soon the risen waters fell;
The carplings, caught in shallow pools,
          The fools!
Were hurried to the frying pan.
Now let him tell me, he who can,
Why did these carplings disobey,
And from the river stroll away?
Was it because they thought they knew
Their mother's counsels were not true?
Or was't they wanted something new?
Or did they think that—Ah, my friend!
To such inquiries where's the end?